NCAA

NC State picked as ACC favorite at media day

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NC State picked as ACC favorite at media day

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) For the first time in nearly four decades, North Carolina State enters the season as the Atlantic Coast Conference favorite.

The Wolfpack, with four starters back from a team that reached the NCAA round of 16, earned 26 of 53 first-place votes Wednesday from media members at the league's annual ``Operation Basketball'' media day.

It is the first time N.C. State has been picked as the preseason favorite since the 1974-75 season, while it marked only the second time in 16 seasons that neither Duke nor North Carolina were picked to win the league race.

In addition, N.C. State junior C.J. Leslie was player of the year, teammate Lorenzo Brown was an all-ACC pick and guard Rodney Purvis was voted rookie of the year.

``It's new territory for our team,'' second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. ``This is unchartered waters. And we have to learn how to accept that responsibility. It's something I think our guys are in the process of doing right now. And when you start playing games, you have to understand that you're viewed differently than maybe you were a year ago, so we've got to be ready for that.''

N.C. State hadn't been picked first since the year after David Thompson helped the Wolfpack stop UCLA's run seven straight national titles on the way to program's first NCAA championship in 1974. The Wolfpack hasn't won the ACC tournament since 1987 and last won a regular-season crown in 1989.

Wednesday's vote came two days after the league coaches also picked N.C. State as the preseason favorite in their first-ever vote on an ACC finish or preseason awards.

``I feel like we have the right group of guys to go out there and handle it right,'' senior Richard Howell said. ``We practice hard every day. We don't take any drills off. That's something coach Gottfried preaches. So if we keep doing that, that'll put us in the perfect position to do what we want to do at the end of the year.''

N.C. State had been picked to finish eighth or lower in four of the past six seasons, including twice being picked to finish last. But things have changed since Gottfried's arrival, with the Wolfpack returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 and reaching a regional semifinal before losing a tight game to eventual finalist Kansas.

N.C. State (24-12) finished with its best win total since 1988. Now Gottfried has an experienced core to go with one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

Before Wednesday, Duke or North Carolina had been picked to finish first in the preseason every year since 2004-05, when the Chris Paul-led Wake Forest squad was tabbed the favorite. N.C. State fans are hoping this year marks the beginning of standing up to those nearby rivals - the Wolfpack has lost 10 straight meetings - and making the ACC race about more than just a two-team discussion.

``They deserve the accolades that they're getting right now,'' UNC coach Roy Williams said. ``They had a great run down the stretch. I'm old enough that I remember when Duke and North Carolina State and North Carolina were all three really good teams and I think that was good for all of us. So to me, we're getting to the point back where it used to be, and I like that. I really do.''

Duke was second with 21 first-place votes and has four starters back from a team that finished second in the league before falling to 15th-seeded Lehigh in its NCAA opener.

North Carolina was third after losing NBA first-round draft picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller. The Tar Heels have won the ACC regular-season title and reached an NCAA regional final the past two years.

Reigning tournament champion Florida State was fourth and got the other six first-place votes.

FSU guard Michael Snaer, who joined Leslie and Brown on the preseason all-ACC team, said he wasn't worried about the focus on N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina instead of paying attention the the Seminoles following their first ACC tournament title - a run that included wins against the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

``I don't think we sent that message obviously because people aren't thinking that we're going to be as good as we're going to be,'' Snaer said. ``Yeah, teams can have all the talent. I mean, when has that affected us? We play teams with talent all the time but our defense is still the same.''

Miami was picked fifth, followed by Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College.

North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo and Duke's Mason Plumlee joined Leslie, Brown and Snaer on the preseason all-ACC team.

West Virginia, Penn State drop in new AP top 25 poll

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USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia, Penn State drop in new AP top 25 poll

After four of the top eight teams lost, The Associated Press college football poll had a new look behind No. 1 Alabama, with Ohio State reaching No. 2, LSU jumping back to No. 5 and Michigan moving into the top 10 for the first time this season.

The Crimson Tide received all but one of the 61 first-place votes from the media panel Sunday, with Ohio State receiving the other. No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Notre Dame also moved up a spot. LSU jumped eight after handing Georgia its first loss of the season. The Bulldogs slipped from No. 2 to No. 8.

No. 6 Michigan has its best ranking of the season after blowing out Wisconsin and Texas is up two spots to No. 7.

No. 9 Oklahoma moved back into the top 10 while it was idle and Central Florida remained No. 10.

COMPLETE AP TOP 25 POLL

1. Alabama 7-0 (60 first-place votes, no change from last week)

2. Ohio State 7-0 (1 first-place vote, No. 3 last week)

3. Clemson 6-0 (No. 4 last week)

4. Notre Dame 7-0 (No. 5 last week)

5. LSU 6-1 (No. 13 last week)

6. Michigan 6-1 (No. 12 last week)

7. Texas 6-1 (No. 9 last week)

8. Georgia 6-1 (No. 2 last week)

9. Oklahoma 5-1 (No. 11 last week)

10. UCF 6-0 (No change from last week)

11. Florida 6-1 (No. 14 last week)

12. Oregon 5-1 (No. 17 last week)

13. West Virginia 5-1 (No. 6 last week)

14. Kentucky 5-1 (No. 18 last week)

15. Washington 5-2 (No. 7 last week)

16. NC State 5-0 (No. 20 last week)

17. Texas A&M 5-2 (No. 22 last week)

18. Penn State 4-2 (No. 8 last week)

19. Iowa 5-1 (Not ranked last week)

20. Cincinnati 6-0 (No. 25 last week)

21. South Florida 6-0 (No. 23 last week)

22. Mississippi State 4-2 (No. 24 last week)

23. Wisconsin 4-2 (No. 15 last week)

24. Michigan State 4-2 (Not ranked last week)

25. Washington State 5-1 (Not ranked last week)

Virginia and Maryland are among those that received votes, with each team getting two apiece.

POLL POINTS

Eight ranked teams overall lost Saturday, including three previously unbeaten teams. Joining Georgia among the previously undefeated on Saturday were West Virginia and Colorado.

UP

All the losses up and down the rankings meant plenty of movement. Joining LSU and Michigan as teams that gained at least four spots were:

-- No. 12 Oregon jumped five after beating Washington in overtime. The Ducks have their best ranking since September 2015.

-- No. 17 Texas A&M moved up five after edging South Carolina on the road.

-- It was a good week to be idle and watch teams plummet. No. 14 Kentucky and No. 16 North Carolina State each gained four spots in an idle week, and No. 20 Cincinnati moved up five.

DOWN

-- No. 13 West Virginia lost at Iowa State and fell seven spots after reaching a season high last week.

-- No. 15 Washington dropped eight spots after losing at Oregon.

-- No. 18 Penn State's second straight close home loss, this time to Michigan State, dropped the Nittany Lions 10 spots.

-- No. 23 Wisconsin, which started the season ranked fourth, dropped eight spots after its second loss.

OUT

-- Colorado reached No. 19, racking up wins against a weak schedule, but USC manhandled the Buffaloes in Los Angeles and now they are unranked.

-- Miami, which started the season at No. 8, is out altogether after losing at Virginia.

-- Auburn, which started the season ninth, is out and no longer receiving votes after getting beat at home by Tennessee and falling to 4-3.

IN

-- Iowa surged into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 19.

-- No. 24 Michigan State is back in after a week out.

-- No. 25 Washington State moved in just in time to host ESPN's "College GameDay" for the first time ever with Oregon coming to town. Getting to Pullman, Washington, is notable for the show because for years it has been followed around by Wazzu fans waving the `Ol Crimson school flag.

CONFERENCE CALL

A week after the Southeastern Conference placed a season-high eight teams in the poll, the SEC lost one and the Big Ten gained two. The ACC has only two ranked team for the first time since Oct. 4, 2015, when Clemson was No. 6 and Florida State was No. 12. The Tigers played for in the national championship game that season.

SEC -- 7 teams (1, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 23).

Big Ten -- 6 (2, 6, 18, 19, 22, 24).

American -- 3 (10, 20, 21).

Big 12 -- 3 (7, 9, 13).

Pac-12 -- 3 (12, 15, 25).

ACC -- 2 (3, 16).

Independent -- 1 (4).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 16 North Carolina State at No. 3 Clemson. The ACC's only ranked and unbeaten teams meet in a game that will likely go a long way toward settling the Atlantic Division.

No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU. This will be the fourth ranked team the Tigers have faced -- though two (Miami and Auburn) are no longer.

No. 6 Michigan at No. 24 Michigan State. Another chance for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines to flipped the narrative.

No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State. The Ducks look to make it an Evergreen State sweep.

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Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

Redskins need a winning streak to convince legion of skeptics

If you want to, you can find plenty of things wrong with the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers. The home team was up 17-0 in the second quarter and yet had to hang on as the Panthers reached the red zone with a chance to win in the last minute. The game got tight because the Redskins continued their second-half scoring problems, putting up just six points. Alex Smith passed for just 153 yards. 

But you can’t poke holes in the fact that the Redskins are 3-2 and in first place in the NFC East. Sure, there is a long way to go. But consider this—a Redskins schedule that looked rough at the beginning of the season doesn’t look quite as tough. In fact, right now the Redskins have a better winning percentage than any team they will play in their remaining 11 games. 

Yes, that’s right. They have six games to play in the division, two each against the Cowboys and Eagles, both now 3-3, and the 1-5 Giants. Their two remaining games against the NFC South are against the 2-3 Bucs and the 2-4 Falcons. The schedule is rounded out with games against three AFC South teams, the Titans, Texans, and Jaguars. All three of those teams are tied atop the division at 3-3. 

Of course, you can’t expect all of these teams to still be wallowing around .500 when they face the Redskins. It looks like the Eagles and Falcons are on the upswing and in today’s NFL any team can get hot at any time. 

And, as the Redskins demonstrated in their Week 2 loss to the Colts, they are capable of losing to a weak team. They still have plenty of issues they have to correct if they plan on maintaining their winning record and staying in contention for the division title. They won’t survive if they continue to have difficulty scoring in the second half (their only second-half TD this season came in garbage time against the Saints). They need to get more sacks from Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, who have one combined. Plenty of details need to be ironed out. 

But the fact that they are a flawed team doesn’t take away from the fact that they got a quality win over the Panthers. Carolina was 3-1, coming off of an 11-5 playoff season. On top of that, the Redskins had not beaten the Panthers since 2006, a stretch that included an 0-4 record against Cam Newton. They didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this year and they got a season-high three takeaways. Christian McCaffrey came into the game averaging 83 yards per game and left it averaging 70 after picking up 20 yards on eight carries. 

With all of that said, the Redskins still have to overcome their inconsistency. They have won two games in a row just twice since the beginning of the 2017 season. Nobody is going to believe that anything is different about the Redskins until they can string together three or four wins in a row. Until then, skepticism will abound. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler is locked into the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler